Green Bay Sweeps NKU, Advances to Horizon League Title
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – For the second time in six days, the Green Bay men's tennis team did not yield a point to the Northern Kentucky Norse.
Only on Saturday at the Varsity Tennis Center at the University of Michigan, it meant a whole lot more.
Propelled by a thrilling tiebreak doubles-point win, the No. 2 seeded Phoenix (13-6, 5-1 HL) swept No. 3 NKU in the semifinal round of the 2016 Horizon League Tennis Championships, 4-0, advancing to Sunday's final for the third-consecutive season.
Green Bay's win comes on the heels of a 7-0 win over the Norse on the final weekend of the regular season in Highland Heights, Ky.
After splitting the opening doubles matches – Leo Gomez Islinger and Florian Kraenzler winning at No. 1, 7-5, and NKU's Lukas Clemens and Adrian Isache winning 6-4 at No. 3, the entire Phoenix team looked on as two of its four seniors staged an impressive rally on center court.
"I saw the 3's losing a little bit of ground, so I knew it might come down to us," said Leto. "My mindset at that point was 'just keep extending the match, because maybe that would help them if not us.' I thought we kept our composure pretty well, and at some point in there it was a lot more positive than theirs."
"Against anybody, we know to just focus on every point because that's all you can do," he said. "It's not worth treating any point any differently. At the end of the day, we got the points we needed."
After the match, head coach Daniel Bickett couldn't praise his seniors' resolve enough.
"What more can you say about [Leto and Scott]," Bickett said. "I don't even know how many match points they were down and they just kept coming back, kept coming back, and played phenomenally well."
That momentum then carried into singles, as Leto defeated Nick Lang in the No. 6 singles flight, 6-2, 6-2, before Kraenzler downed Clemens at No. 3, 6-3, 6-0, and Gomez Islinger clinched the win with a 6-2, 6-3 decision over Jody Maginley at No. 2.
With the victory, Green Bay will face the top-seeded Valparaiso (21-5, 6-0 HL) in a Championship rematch after the Crusaders defeated the No. 5 seeded Cleveland State, 4-0. The match will be broadcast on ESPN3, beginning at 2 p.m. CT.
Valparaiso is winners of 11 straight matches, while Green Bay has strung together a season-high five straight since its 5-2 loss to the Crusaders on April 9 at Western Racquet & Fitness Club.
Despite its setback three weeks ago; however, the Phoenix won't change their game.
"We're not going to change our game even though we lost to them last time," said Leto. "We know that if we can bring it every single point, anything can happen."
"I'm really confident in our team, we have some veteran experience, so if we just play every play like its our last, hopefully it will accumulate."
Green Bay can draw on its postseason experience when facing Valparaiso in recent years, after claiming a 4-0 victory against them in the 2015 Horizon League Title and another 4-0 result in the 2014 Horizon League Semifinals.
"We don't care [if we play inside or outside]," said Bickett. "We're ready to play Valpo anywhere. They're great competitors, they're a great team and it's going to take a great effort from us. But we're excited for the opportunity."
1. SCOTT, Howard (GB) vs. VIRAG, Mate (NKU) 4-6, 1-5, unfinished
2. GOMEZ ISLINGER, Leo. (GB) def. MAGINLEY, Jody (NKU) 6-2, 6-3
3. KRAENZLER, Florian (GB) def. CLEMENS, Lukas (NKU) 6-3, 6-0
4. SCHRAMM, Joshua (GB) vs. CLARK, Court (NKU) 6-4, 3-2, unfinished
5. RIDOUT, Charlie (GB) vs. ISACHE, Adrian (NKU) 6-4, 4-2, unfinished
6. LETO, Joey (GB) def. LANG, Nick (NKU) 6-2, 6-2
1. GOMEZ ISLINGER, Leo./KRAENZLER, Florian (GB) def. MAGINLEY, Jody/LANG, Nick (NKU) 7-5
2. SCOTT, Howard/LETO, Joey (GB) def. VIRAG, Mate/CLARK, Court (NKU) 7-6 (7-4)
3. CLEMENS, Lukas/ISACHE, Adrian (NKU) def. McDOWALL, Miles/KOSTADINOV, Matej (GB) 6-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (6,3,2)
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